Aston Villa's hopes of claiming automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship suffered a potentially fatal blow in a 3-1 by Norwich at Carrow Road.

The mid-table Canaries had lost their previous two games but turned in an excellent performance against their high-flying visitors - who started with Republic of Ireland internationals Conor Hourihane and Scott Hogan -  to deservedly take the points.

A superb long-range effort from Josh Murphy broke the deadlock just before the break and Dennis Srbeny added a second just after it, before Jack Grealish pulled one back for a disappointing Villa side, who had been given a window of opportunity the previous night when second-placed Cardiff lost at home to leaders Wolves.

But Norwich quickly replied through top-scorer James Maddison to settle the issue.

With Villa seemingly content to sit back and rely on counter-attacks, Norwich forced a free-kick in a dangerous position eight minutes in which Maddison fired just over.

Murphy then burst down the left and tested Sam Johnstone with a low drive before Grant Hanley's header from a corner was cleared by Robert Snodgrass.

The visitors threatened once or twice on the break, but there were no saves for Angus Gunn to make, and City's promising display was finally rewarded two minutes into injury-time.

There didn't appear to be much danger when Murphy picked up possession on the right hand edge of the box but the young winger cut inside to work himself some space before firing home from 25 yards, with a looping effort dipping late to find the top corner as Johnstone was left grasping at thin air.

The hosts maintained the momentum after the break and made it 2-0 on 53 minutes. Murphy was again involved, dashing down the left before finding Harrison Reed who chipped in a perfectly weighted pass which Srbeny bundled home to register his first goal since his January move from German third-tier football.

Villa desperately needed a response and they got it midway through the second period when their most impressive performer got one back. Grealish picked up substitute Jonathan Kodjia's pass on the edge of box and sent in a powerful low shot that took a slight deflection on its way into the back of the net, with Gunn getting nowhere near it.

But Norwich soon restored their two-goal advantage as poor Villa defending let him in again in the 72nd minute. Murphy rode several lightweight tackles to burst into the area and he coolly squared the ball to Maddison, who had the easy task of sweeping home his 15th goal of the season.

Srebeny only narrowly failed to get on to a Murphy cross that only needed a touch as the hosts threatened a fourth, while recently retired Irish international Wes Hoolahan - brought off the bench - later skied a clear-cut chance well over.